Imparting the Green Message

Imparting the Green Message


Sustainable LivingIn this issue of Renovate & Extend, we talk to two women who work in publishing and are passionate about communicating the need to be green

Katie Patrick, CEO, GREEN PAGES

After completing a Degree in Environmental/Civil Engineering, Katie worked for a number of years in the building industry, in particular in green building accreditation in Melbourne and energy-efficient housing design in Sydney. It was while working in this area that she became aware of the need to facilitate the connections between consumers and green businesses. The result was the publication, Green Pages, which has expanded to five editions per year including the Eco Directory, which lists over 6000 screened eco-friendly products and services, and an active website,

The website will soon go global to include a green jobs section and commence a carbon trading service. Katie’s main aim in life is to feel she’s making a difference in the most efficient and productive way possible, towards sustainability, which she sees as fundamental to slowing climate change and the depletion of our resources.

We asked Katie Patrick what sustainable design elements she would incorporate into a home renovation or addition.

“I would go big on vintage — I love Edwardian carvings, ‘60s pop, wallpaper, and ‘old-look’ timber; anything that looks old can have real character and end up looking extremely modern if you have a good eye. I have sourced many renovation products including wallpaper, lamps and furniture from eBay for a great price.

“Only have natural paints and flooring — I would not use anything toxic. For floor coverings use natural products like linseed linoleum, or jute or cork; I wouldn’t use glues. Install heavy roof insulation such as Pink Batts, which are 70 per cent recycled glass and are a great, certified, environmental choice. Open windows up to the north; add a pergola with a deciduous grape vine and optional further shading. Use Forest Stewardship certified timber or reclaimed timber. Make rarely used rooms small, with a larger, open living space for temperature control. Use large stones around a gas heater to provide ‘thermal mass’ to retain heat control. Open up the roof to provide a split celestial-style window with the eve designed to provide sun in winter and shade in summer. These windows need to have louvres and also shades. I find products that smell toxic or look plastic look tacky, cheap and unsophisticated. Wholesome, high quality, fun and stylish is the way to go.

“I feel it is important for people to start prioritising their financial decision-making. There is still a sense out there that a Jacuzzi will add 20,000 dollars to the value of a home, whereas a solar panel and grey water system will not increase the value. This is changing and these sustainable features will soon be seen as huge value-adding and selling features. In 10 years, if people respond to issues of climate change, at least one in every five homes will have passive solar design, grey water, solar hot water, photovoltaics, shade trees and vines. These homes would be really comfortable inside with negligible running costs. Wouldn’t you see homebuyers opting for this style of home instead of one that generates increasingly larger annual energy and water bills?”


A passionate lobbyist for the environment since the mid-1970s, Kate has designed, lectured on, written and commissioned editorial features that address the impact building has had on the environment.

What Kate St. James has witnessed — and continuously advocates — is the fact that sustainable practices and luxury need not be mutually exclusive. According to Kate, “The word luxury and sustainable most definitely go together now. It’s becoming mainstream for houses to incorporate sustainable design. When I ask people to submit projects for publication, an important element of the home’s design is the sustainable aspects of the project. For instance, in Contemporary Home Design magazine, virtually every project has a green design element and an energy efficiency rated factor.

“And in the most recent issue of Luxury Home Design (LHD), Clint Eastwood’s eco development in Carmel, USA, features. This development of 2000 hectares incorporates sustainable design, from the stone dug out of the ground and used as building material to the self-sufficient water treatment centre, photovoltaic and solar thermal systems, an on-site organic farm, and a strong dedication to preserving native grasses and trees tying together to minimise the development’s footprint on the region. By blending science with common sense, green practices reflected in nature, the development maintains the true integrity of the land by getting back to basics.

“I came from England in 1968 and after going back in the early ‘70s and then returning to Australia in 1974, I could see that there was so much this environment offered. However, I could also see that it’s a fragile country, with water shortages and poor topsoil. That’s when I first started promoting green issues and lobbying for sustainable practices in design. My husband and I built a passive solar-designed home in northern New South Wales in 1982, when most people considered these practices extreme. When they walked into the house they couldn’t believe we had no air-conditioning or central heating because the temperature inside was always warm in winter and cool in summer. We used solar hot water heating that also heated the floor through piping under the natural stone tiles, although we found that most of the time in winter, this was unnecessary.”

This was one of many homes designed and fitted out by Kate and husband Ian in their design practice and one that gave them first-hand knowledge of the way in which passive solar design can truly be sustainable.

“Because we live in a very fragile environment we have to design and build our houses according to the prevailing conditions. They got it right with the beautiful old Queenslanders, a style of Australian architecture that factored in the environment and worked with it.

“Successful contemporary design principles are still the same — working in harmony with the environment rather than against it. We need to leave this planet in as good a shape — or better — than we found it. That’s sustainability at its most fundamental. We owe that to our children and their children.”

Kate St.James’s practical sustainable applications for contemporary housing:
• Install solar hot water collectors
• Install rain water tanks
• If short on space, put a rainwater ‘bladder’ underneath the house, carport or deck
• Change over to Green Energy
• Add solar collectors if you can afford it, and then sell energy back to the grid
• Install insulation batts and whirly birds in roofs to save on heating and cooling
• To stop the heat leaving the house in cold climates, use lined curtains and pelmets
• Use eaves — make sure they are pitched so you get the winter sun but are protected from the summer sun
• Build a pergola
• Plant deciduous trees or vines
• Install water-conserving taps and plumbing
• Use grey water where allowable
• Use energy-efficient light globes
• Use sustainable materials in your furniture and furnishings, such as natural fibres, hemp, bamboo, seagrass, eco cotton and wool
• Use recycled materials, such as used bricks and timber
• Use environmentally friendly cleaning products, housing products, and non- or low-toxic glues, dyes and paints
• Use fresh air as much as possible — create cross-ventilation throughout the house
• For new structures, work with a designer and builder who understands the principles of energy-efficient and passive solar design